Downton Abbey season 4, episode 2

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*SPOILER ALERT*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

For  a one hour episode, there sure was a lot of drama packed into the episode! The highlight was a house party at Downton Abbey, but I say there was no forewarning for it in the previous episode (maybe I missed it). From the list of guests we meet a potential suitor for Lady Mary, Lord Anthony Gillingham. Quite the dashing figure, he come in and subtly reawakens Mary’s spirit. But alas, he is engaged, however we all know that Julian Fellows likes to blow up conventionality for love…

Lady Edith continues her romance with Mr. Griegson, and with the house party in full swing, has him blend into the festivities. Several attempts to bring him and her father closer together fail, but in the end a card game in which Mr. Griegson wins back all the money lost to the card sharp, including Lord Grantham’s finally elevates him to be acknowledged. I’m sure Lord Grantham may have much to say if it comes to pass that Lady Edith moves to Germany to be with her intended. I am happy for her, she deserves the love in her life…

There is continued drama downstairs and it seems like Jimmy is finally falling for the sweet Ivy. Now if only Albert would set his eyes on Daisy, but for now, Albert has his eyes set on rattling pots and pans in a high class restaurant. The new lady’s maid, Edna is silently stalking Branson, and I don’t know if you caught this but she silently slipped into a bedroom at the end of the episode and I’ll bet you dollars to none she forced herself into Branson’s bedroom. She wasn’t the only one forcing herself: Lord Gillingham’s valet forced himself onto poor Anna, with a horrid rape scene at the end while Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was singing upstairs and all the kitchen staff were out of earshot to Anna’s screams. I knew about this happening, and read about the huge outcry in England against the graphic portrayal of a rape scene. But I don’t know that there will be such an outcry here in the states; haven’t read any kind of online protests as of yet. This is not to minimize the fact that rape is a brutal crime against nature, because Anna certainly did not deserve being brutalized. I fear that the fallout from this will drive a wedge between her and Bates, it seems to have already begun. Slate had an interesting take on this, with a story exposing the continued mistreatment of the Downton Abbey female characters. I just hope that Anna can pull herself out of this tragedy.

image

Lady Violet continues her background manipulations, correcting poor Branson’s interactions with the Duchess for one, but I saw in her a soft side. Isobel continues to mourn Matthew terribly, and the dowager has been quietly supporting her in her grief. Can it be? The dowager has turned the corner to become an old softie? I for one am glad to see it, this makes her character even more lovable.

The episode is online to stream if you’d like to watch again, I know I certainly will before Sunday nights. The next episode airs on Sunday January 19 on WYES at 8pm with a one hour episode. And while you’re at it, leave the TV on the same channel afterwards, Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock season 3 begins right after.

V-Day Pileup: On Silence and Violence

There are two links in this post I urge you to contribute to, one being the fund for the recovery of the Garden District robbery and rape victim, the other for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Read on to see why.

More and more, I’m finding it cannot be avoided, no matter how hard women try. We are still surrounded by people who would put us in what they think is “our place,” a position that tends to be highly restrictive on any and all physical and mental levels.

Tell me I’m crazy. Go on and talk down to me, I dare you.

…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)…

…Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

Events and discussions will occasionally converge that lead me to a boiling point on this subject…

Why it’s disgusting and ignorant of you to imply that a woman caught large Mardi Gras beads in a risque manner, for instance. Yeah, it’s one of the oldest, sexist, dumbest Carnival tropes, but it does get tiring after a while. I caught huge, LSU-emblazoned beads just from being at the start of the Thoth parade route. Next Carnival season, I’m gonna ask the next guy I see with giant beads on what he flashed for them.

A list of the 10 cities where women earn the highest salaries is always nifty, but women are still earning less than men.

The horrific news about the murder of paraplegic Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.

Controversy over the Eve Ensler-organized One Billion Rising Campaign, which I only just heard about today, but I also wonder about its premise…as do many other women around the world.:

I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.

I had occasion to speak with someone about the recent kidnapping, robbery, beating, and rape of a young woman in the Garden District, and large chunks of the conversation revolved around the same tropes that come up whenever something like this happens to any woman. It all came around to our living in a world where women are taught “not to be raped,” and the suspicion that comes up is generally directed first against the woman who is the victim rather than the perpetrators. When a victim’s first move is to tell her would-be comforters and shelterers “Don’t touch me. I’m evidence,” then we know who the burden of proof is on.

This hasn’t ended with the capture of the criminals and their upcoming trial. Though a large amount of funds has been raised thus far for the victim’s rehabilitation, she will need far more than that – keep contributing here. This friend of a friend of mine will be grateful.

I ask you to also consider that state budget cuts will likely destabilize what structures there are to assist women who have been victims of domestic violence as well – among them New Orleans’ own Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. They accept donations of time or money here.

Know of any other needy organizations in the city or state that help female victims of abuse, rape, or violence? Please contribute names and links in the comments. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you give. Honest.

To Share With My Sista’s

I’m on the mailing list of V-day.org and I received a message today that included a link to a post on their site by Yolo Akili that *really* touched me. I’ve cut and pasted it here in it’s entirety to share with y’all.

akili
Yolo Akili

Scream quietly now or the neighbors will hear you….
Wrap your bleeding fingers
Over your tear struck eyes
Huddle your knees to your chest
And muffle your cries

Watch the shadows on the wall
Hear the curses in the ether
Tell the social worker
You can’t recall
Or remember
Either
Play make up with your mommy
To cover the bruises
Help her fix dinner
And the table;
Offer him
No
Excuses
To invoke his rage
Or ignite his temper
When he raises his fist
Press your lips
Do not whimper

In a moment mommy says this all will be through
So scream quietly now..Or the neighbors will hear you…

As a little boy I watched daily as the men in my life terrorized women through acts of control, aggression, and violence. These same men also worked hard to beat out of me any expression they deemed “feminine” and “weak.” Because of this I grew up with an awareness early on that something was wrong with the men in my world. It was an understanding so simple and yet so precise: These men were in pain. A lot of pain. What was this pain? Had you asked me then I would not have known.

Later in my life, I came to see that this pain connected to how we as men are socialized. It is a pain created by self destructive beliefs about manhood that many of us accept without question. I learned how we are taught to disconnect from our emotions, and that the only acceptable feeling to express is anger. I learned how men are taught that our sense of self-worth is tied to external material and not internal immanent value. I saw that the culture gives us a code of what “real manhood” is and that it is this unquestioned code, with all of its repression and ethics of aggression that is causing a great deal of our pain.

I wonder what would happen if black men
Starting speaking to each other?
I wonder what would happen
if the time we spent
Oppressing women
Or perpetuating rigid gender roles
Was spent staring eye to eye?
See I believe even the most masculinist brotha
Would break in
And cry……

As I grew older and came out as a gay man, my relationship to violence against women took on a very different perspective. My first community of gay men, for instance was one heavily involved in feminist activism. We saw ourselves as feminist/womanist/pro-feminist revolutionaries. Yet and still, we did not see or look into how society still privileged us because of our maleness. Because of the way our gay identity “warped” our perceived masculinity, we were very rarely, if ever, called out on the abusive behaviors we inflicted upon women. Our “diva worship” and idolization of normative feminine performance, which is directly connected to the degradation of women by devaluing women as objects of visual pleasure, went unnoticed. Our domination and silencing of lesbian and queer women at conferences, in the media, in classrooms and in community was not spoken of. We marched through feminist spaces, enjoying the notoriety we got for being men who say the exact same things women have been silenced about for eons. We rationalized our interruptions of women, and stifled their concerns of sexism by crying homophobia. Even though our locations were different, at the end of the day, it became very apparent to me that gay men and straight men’s sexism stems from the same root, even if the tree looks different.

Women are best
In high heel shoes
Prada
Gucci
Vuittion
Will do.
Plastic toys
To dress and style
Swing your hips like this
Make the straight boys smile
What are you wearing?
Oh sistah
No!
Come, my accessory
To the mall
We go…

Creating safety for women means much more than stopping physical violence. Because Physical violence is only the manifestation of a breadth of ideologies about women’s worth, “place” and being. These ideologies contribute to creating climates where rape, misogyny and physical violence can occur. Thus as men regardless of sexual orientation we are all implicated, and we all have work to do.
Apart of this work is holding the mirror up to each other and looking at ourselves. It is what I like to call “healing work.” Healing work is ending and addressing violence and domination with the goal of creating a world where every being can express themselves without danger. It means we look within, and move outward, understanding these realities are intricately apart of each other. This “healing work” is the work we must do now in order to end violence against women, girls, boys all human beings and ourselves. It is the work that always, no matter who or where we are begins with us.

Yolo Akili is a Poet, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and Instructor/ Trainer at Men Stopping Violence. He is apart of the co-founders of Sweet Tea: Southern Queer Men’s Collective, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of sexism in Queer Male Communities, and the author of the poetry Chapbook, “Poems In the Key of Green”. He can be reached via his website, yolothepoet.com